Harassment and a failure of leadership
IT IS astonishing that allegations of bullying and sexual harassment at the National Museum of Ireland have been known to Arts Minister Heather Humphreys and her department for years, but no action has been taken to protect the women facing what they describe as ‘bullies and perverts’.
In one instance that highlights the problem, Adrienne Corless – whose mother Catherine revealed the Tuam babies scandal – found her contract was not renewed in the aftermath of allegations she made to her superiors.
Former director of the museum Pat Wallace rather understates the problem when he says there was ‘an outbreak of unrestrained misogyny’ there, and adds that women he used to work with have told him the culture is still prevalent. That, frankly, is scandalous.
Meanwhile, the Taoiseach claimed that despite a macho culture in Leinster House, there is no sexual harassment. But women working there say not only the contrary, but that they are fearful of speaking out.
Stephanie Regan investigated the claims at the museum in 2011 and says Minister Humphreys, and those around her, have done everything in their power to ensure the allegations are not publicly aired. This comes on foot of Ms Humphreys’s pledge not to defund the Gate Theatre despite the allegations against former boss Michael Colgan – stating they’re a human resources matter for the bodies involved.
This is patently nonsense. These bodies are funded by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, so they are funded with our money.
The Government cannot sit back and allow a pervasive culture of sexism and misogyny, of verbal and sexual abuse, persist. They cannot tolerate any institution that allows women to be exposed to the whim of powerful men who run public bodies as if they were private fiefdoms.
We have been told the Harvey Weinstein revelations were a watershed moment that empowered women all over the world to stand up and say ‘me too’. That might be the case, but we must remember they are the vanguard. More women – and, indeed, men – will speak out.
It is what we do next that will define us, and what is required is clear leadership and a genuine commitment to let women speak without fear of retribution, and to protect them from toxic masculinity in the workplace.